College VP: Solving transfer student success is our next big challenge

Helping students transfer to four-year institutions has a positive ripple effect

Transfer students require clear academic pathways for success in higher education and beyond. Jeff Fanter, vice president for enrollment, communications, and marketing management at Ivy Tech Community College (Ivy Tech) spoke with The EvoLLLution about achieving this goal. 

Fanter notes that the stereotype of the typical college student—someone just out of high school attending a four-year institution—isn't the norm. Many students today are entering higher education at community colleges before transferring to four-year schools. They are looking for affordable ways to pursue a high-quality education that will give them greater opportunities throughout their lives. For nontraditional students with jobs, families, and other responsibilities, transferring opens doors that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.

But to adequately provide for these students, institutions must establish clear pathways for success.

"Defining those pathways so students can make the right decision on course enrollments is critical," Fanter says. "It expedites their time to degree here at the community college and supports their transfer to a four-year institution. It makes good use of their time and good use of their resources."

Institutions must be able to explain the value of their education to students and how their journey throughout college will unfold, Fanter says. Students need to know exactly which courses they need to attain their degree, what will be expected of them throughout the process, and how long it will take to get there. Otherwise, they risk wasting time and money racking up credits that won't help them achieve their degree.

Students also need a practical view of the pathway toward degree completion to ensure persistence. 

Four reasons four-year institutions should focus on transfer students

"Taking a long time to earn a degree is not a mark of failure," Fanter says. "It's a recognition of the demands of college education and adherence to their own pathway and timeline. If students understand their realistic pathway, it's more likely they will stay engaged, stay enrolled, and complete faster."

Improving outcomes for transfer students is important on two levels, Fanter says. First, it is the mission of community colleges to provide optimal pathways for students. Second, today's students are seeking the personalized attention that a community college experience offers.

In Indiana, which is home to Ivy Tech, transfer pathways hold particular importance. To achieve the state's goal of 60% degree attainment by 2025, students must be able to transfer to four-year institutions. Fanter notes that transferring credits from community colleges saves nearly $30 million in tuition costs for students.

"That's a good thing for the state, it's a good thing for the students and it's going to be paid more and more attention in coming years," he says (Fanter, The EvoLLLution, 11/9). 

Learn more about using guided pathways to support transfer

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